Drones. Catherine Ashton. EU Intelligence Agency.
If the above combination doesn’t do the following:
- Explain this blog title and,
- Terrify you
Then allow me to explain very briefly.
On the 26th of July this year, the Telegraph ran with the latest announcement from the European Commission, that the EU want to establish a surveillance and intelligence agency arm that would be part of Catherine Ashton’s European External Action Service (read EU Foreign Office).
The theory according to sources within the EU was that this measure would help reduce the widely perceived US dominance in NATO which France has so long detested and it would help to counterbalance the power of the US NSA and British Intelligence services (which is odd as we are meant to be allies sharing aircraft, naval vessels and other military materiel but whatever….).
Now why is this move a declaration of EU political elites towards a “Federal Europe”?:
The dividing lines between a State and a supranational body (such as the UN, IMF, World Bank, etc) have often been blurred within the EU, which has been part of the point. In particular the difference appears to have been this cleverly constructed façade of a “democratic heart” to the EU, otherwise known as the European Parliament.
Of course as most followers of EU politics are aware, this “democratic heart” is a convenient cover for the fact that it is the EU Commission and EU commissioners who in reality draft and decide all legislation within the EU. But this has in many respects helped to strengthen some elements of the EU’s offerings.
The key benefit (there are few in my opinion) of EU membership has been the creation of a “free market” which has allowed European companies and people to grow and develop beyond the limitations that had existed before. In this respect a civil service with little to no accountability to an electorate has been a very convenient way of bypassing issues which national politicians would have been unable to implement but which needed to happen in order to create a functioning (albeit imperfect) free market.
As a result it had been largely accepted by European citizens and the British public that some EU legislation had to hurt as part of the quid pro quo for other gains, but then came the 2008 recession and people finally began to realise the power that the EU had to determine the fates of its member’s citizens.
Again, this should perhaps be unsurprising for seasoned EU watchers. After all, Europe has often ignored or attempted to deny people a vote on their future. Examples include ignoring a French and Dutch “No” at the 2005 referendum for an EU constitution which then was changed to the Lisbon Treaty to bypass national laws that would have required referendums and asking the Irish to vote twice on Lisbon after they first voted “No”.
The main reason why an Intelligence Agency with an Air Force (and make no mistake, modern air power will be drone operated), is such a clear declaration of the intent of EU to become a federal state is in the very definition of a modern day state.
Derived from the legacy of European wars, the Treaty of Westphalia defined states through the concept of Sovereignty which at its core has been defined subsequently as “The monopoly of the Legitimate use of Force”.
The rationale behind this is clear: for a state to enforce its laws it must have the ability to implement them and if necessary to use force to do so.
Herein lies the crux. If the EU has the power to exercise military and security apparatus, when EU members are already NATO members and retain their own police and security forces (coordinated often by Interpol and UNODC for trans-national criminal threats), then what is its purpose?
If the EU develops security forces and capabilities, it will only be a matter of time before the EU asks (or a diplomatic norm) is created that no EU member will use military force without the consent of the relevant EU organs. Once member states lose their absolute monopoly on the “Legitimate use of Force”, we have a Federal Europe. End of.
So why is this scary?
Exempting the fact that no opinion poll (at least to my knowledge) has ever has shown a single member state where they have indicated a majority who wish to be part of a “Federal States of Europe”, my two main points centre on the challenge this poses to NATO and the current competencies of The European External Action Service.
So first to NATO. The world’s oldest continuous military alliance in history and born from the ashes of Europe and the fires that covered the world. For better or for worse NATO has been the key compliment to the European Coal and Steel Community for establishing security within Europe since 1945.
NATO not only is the most efficiently staffed, managed and most experienced multi-national security agency in the world, but also one which continues to grow with members the world over seeing its benefits including old enemies such as Turkey and Greece.
The establishment of a rival organisation to NATO, which we must be under no illusions is exactly what the new EEAS Intelligence Agency would develop to be (a modern day “Trojan Horse” if you will), would not only increase the administrative costs on member states of retaining their armed forces but further hamstring their ability to deploy during a crisis. Thus a rival institution to NATO not only challenges its existence but its reduces its capability to operate effectively and challenges the US willingness to cooperate in European security matters.
The logistical difficulties that NATO experienced in the Libyan air campaign is systematic of the fact the Europe is still heavily dependent on US materiel support (The UK nuclear deterrent and F35 are entirely dependent on the US), yet the difficulty that Europe has experienced in intervening in Rwanda, Bosnia, Syria, Mali and any number of failed or failing states is systematic of the difficulties of group consensus in the EU.
The French and British decision to remove the EU arms embargo to rebels in Syria despite Austrian and other member reluctance or France’s refusal to support the Iraq war in contrast to the UK shows exactly why consensus in the EU on military matters is so complex. At least in NATO the structure allows Europeans the diplomatic security of devolving decisions to the Americans to avoid any domestic backlash from NATO’s actions.
Lastly on NATO let us remember that as the world’s pre-eminent super power, the US military is second to none in materiel and combat experience and at over 40% of global defence spending, the EU would have far less competencies at its disposal for any deployments they planned than NATO can offer.
Now lets turn to the EEAS.
Currently only 5 European states contribute even 2% of GDP to defence. With Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal all in recession still, funding increases to support a new bureaucracy would seem like a hard sell to me, but assuming it can be raised the EEAS spending record is fairly awful.
The EEAS has failed every spending audit it has had since its creation and was designated the worst performing EU department within an EU External review. The European Court of Auditors and the FT slammed the EEAS for its performance in Egypt this year as well where they both argued over 1 Billion euros had been spent for little to no tangible benefit.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, its leader Catherine Ashton, has never been elected to any position ever, was never even heard of until David Miliband turned down the position of Head of the EEAS which allowed her to be elected. The body has also been widely criticised for its slow responses to international crises and its duplication of what many see as a sovereign role (in particular setting up embassies abroad).
Perhaps more than any of this though, the EEAS has no business running a Security Agency because there is no clear mandate or purpose behind what it should achieve. The NATO defence pact (Article 5) and the common currency have already reduced the likelihood of a continental war to near non-existent, whilst national security agencies already work together to resolve common threats such as Al Qaeda or else pursue threats specific to their nation.
So in conclusion:
The battle for Europe which has been long in its coming is reaching the surface quicker and quicker by the day. The EU cannot survive in its current form, a fact that both those in the pro and anti lobby have recognized and thus the question is what comes next.
The creation of an Intelligence Agency in the EEAS is a game-changing moment in the discourse for the future of Europe. One where the EU becomes a Federal European State.
For those of you who like me shudder at that thought, now is your time to show it.